We live in an app-drive world – whatever you need to do, chances are there’s an app that will either do it for you, or help you do it faster and easier. However, while we can all agree that some apps are universally useful, the way we access these apps is anything but universal. Some of us use smartphones, others prefer tablets, and some are still prefer PCs. So, as an app developer, what’s the best way to design your app so it can reach your target audience better?
When it comes to creating an app, the first decision you need to make is whether to create a native app or a web-based app. However, before being able to decide which suits your needs better, you will need to understand what are the ups and down of each approach.
Native apps are standalone programs that are specifically designed for a certain platform. A native iOS app will run on iPhones and iPads, but won’t run on Android-based smartphones and the apples the other way around.
There are two main advantages you should consider:
- Better app performance;
- Access to hardware controls
A native app is stored on the device, along with all its components, so loading times are significantly slower compared to a web-based app that relies primarily on the Internet connection speed. This makes navigation through the app easier, and allows you to build more complex visuals for the app.
The more important aspect of a native app, though, is that it will allow you access to the device’s hardware, so you can integrate more advanced features into your app, such as NFC support, GPS support or camera-based features – things that are significantly harder to implement in a web-app, if possible at all.
However, native apps come with a slight drawback: you have to undergo some conditions and wait for your app to be approved for distribution through Google Play Store, the Apple App Store or whatever platform you are targeting. Also, if you want to make the app available for another platform, you will have to re-code everything from scratch, which can be time consuming.
Web-apps are applications that make use of websites to deliver their contents and operate. For example, when you’re accessing the website of your favorite newspaper instead of reading it through its dedicated app, you’re working with the web-app.
While web-apps are significantly easier to develops and offer a seamless experience across a wider range of devices and platforms, they also come with some limitations in terms of features and performance.
An advantage of web-apps is the fact that you have more freedom when creating the app, as there are no guidelines or strict rules you need to obey. When it’s update time, things are also easier, as you can update your app instantly and every user will benefit from the updates right away.
A while ago, opting for one time of app or another was easy, depending on the needs. However, with technology advancing at such a fast pace, the limitations web-apps have are slowly disappearing. More devices are supporting HTML5, which removes a lot of the performance and feature-related limitations of web-apps, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if developers that work at a smaller scale migrate to web-apps to make the development process easier. Native-apps also start to have cross-platform integration, because developers understood that some users will not leave one platform just because an app is not available for the platform yet, but rather find an alternative app.
Overall, one thing is clear – this is the time when the barriers between platforms will be lowered or even removed. We’ll just have to wait and see whether it will be cross-platform native apps that do the job or web-apps.